It is the start of the new 2015-16 for most U.S. College and High School squash coaches, and to help them plan for the upcoming year, I have just published two blog articles on squash periodization: one on the Transition Phase and the other on Periodization of Technique and Tactics in the General Preparation Phase (GPP). My next periodization article in the series will be on the planning of strength training in the GPP.
Before I get to that I want to introduce squash coaches to a fantastic tool that can be used to produce your team’s own custom-designed strength training program: PumpOne’s Fitness Builder. I have been using it for the past three years to plan and design my own college team’s strength programs – result: two complete seasons without a single squash-related injury (you can check with the Smith trainers:)
Coaches can design programs with Fitness builder on their computer or smart device like an iPad or iPhone. The custom programs can be sent to athletes via emailed PDF or directly to their phone/tablet, and since there are linked video descriptions for every exercise, athletes can take their own “personal trainer” or strength coach to the gym with them – great for the off-season when many squash players are away from the campus gym. The interface is intuitive and extremely easy to use, with hundreds of exercises to choose from, as well as a variety of fitness programs. My advice to squash coaches using the wise periodization approach is design your own programs following periodization principles (e.g., Bompa, 2009). Check out this video overview of the Fitness Builder system:
Now here is the catch – are you qualified to design a periodized squash-specific strength program – or are you just going to “wing it” or copy somebody else’s program – or worse – use the program that got you a hip replacement?
The USTA (tennis) has produced a number of books (e.g., Kovacs et al., 2007 above image) which can be used as a reference, as the strength demands of tennis and squash are similar enough. The drawback of using a strength coach – the NSCA CSCS is the gold standard of certification (I got certified in 2006) – is that many of them come from a football background and still rely heavily on “traditional” strength lifts and exercises. The major problem with this is that there are much better, more squash-specific and functional exercises available – so what is really needed is someone like myself with both the squash coaching and national level playing background AND a reputable strength training certification. Here is a short video I made on this topic:
If you do not have access to a CSCS with extensive squash experience, a smart alternative is to subscribe to the Exos (formerly Core Performance website) and either a) use their squash or tennis programs; or b) follow their template and select from amongst their bank of exercises when you use fitness builder. Eighty per cent of the exercises I use with my team are the same or highly similar to Exos exercises (I like to think my programs are a little better than theirs due to my 40 years of experience designing squash-specific strength programs:). This is what I did four years ago – every week in the fall (I started my Smith Squash Team on September 15th) I would upload the appropriate EXOS training program for both the Smith Tennis and Squash Teams to follow.
As a minimum, I would design one program per phase of the annual plan. If you have an assistant or enjoy this type of coaching you could change the plan up every two weeks, but the law of diminishing returns applies and you would probably be better off spending your time recruiting.
Here is an example program I have used with my team (remember that the version sent to your athletes iPhones has clickable video descriptions for each exercise!):
Last couple of words on this topic. If you are a squash coach working with not yet fully mature juniors, make sure you follow LTAD guidelines for squash or tennis. If you need help in this area please give me a call – my rates are reasonable to develop custom branded programs for you and your team.